Arsenal take on Norwich City on Saturday after what has been two weeks of boredom. With most of the players returning in a single piece, Arsenal should have a good team to put out there against the Canaries. And the game also provides the tantalizing prospect of seeing Ozil and Cazorla weave their magic together, provided both pass their fitness tests.
I caught up with Gary, a life long Norwich fan and football writer. He feels Ozil was always going to be a top draw signing and with him in the team, Arsenal could push on. And he feels that despite their lowly standing, Norwich should be aiming for the top 10 after the steady progress made in the past two years.
1.Firstly, tell me about yourself and your website.
I’m Gary Gowers, editor (and columnist) on MyFootballWriter.com, which is a commercial website dedicated to news, comment and analysis on all things City. I also write for the Metro Sport. Norwich City is in my DNA given I’m a third generation ‘Canary’…
2. Would it be fair to say that Norwich haven’t had the best of starts to the season?
Yep; that would be a fair comment. Our CEO, David McNally, recently described our league position (18th) as “embarrassing” and pretty much spoke for us all. Having said that there is a feeling we’ve turned a corner in terms of performance levels and were desperately unlucky to lose to Chelsea last time out having had a real go at them in the second half of the game. We’re currently of the opinion that our league position is a false one… but time will tell.
3. Is Chris Hughton a popular figure? Or do the fans want to see someone new in the dugout?
Mixed; While there are many who admire his measured approach, there are others who yearn for a return to the gung-ho approach of the Paul Lambert years. For those who refuse to believe Lambert has left the building there is nothing that Hughton can do to alter their view – even an FA Cup win and a Champions League place would be insufficient to placate them right now. The majority however live in the real world and can see that we’re in safe hands.
4. Ricky van Wolfswinkel was a kinda statement of intent from Norwich considering the money paid for his signing. Are the fans pleased with what they’ve seen?
The jury is still out. He has clearly found the intensity of the Premier League tough going, but over the last couple of games has shown some promising signs. Clearly a good technician, we’re hopeful he’s a slow burner who will soon come good and go some way to solving our goalscoring problem.
5. Which Norwich player has really impressed this campaign? Or anyone to watch out for?
While Ricky came with most bells and whistles it is his Dutch compatriot, Leroy Fer who has really caught the eye. A heady mix of Patrick Viera and Yaya Toure, Fer has been everything we were hoping for and more – his full international debut in midweek just reward for his excellent early-season form.
6. It’s Norwich’s third season in the EPL. Is the primary objective still survival or is the club aiming higher?
With the City board demanding ‘constant improvement’ there is little doubt that Hughton has been tasked with rather more than pure survival. With consecutive PL finishes of 12th and 11th the inference is that 10th or better is now the board’s expectation, particularly after loosening the purse strings in the summer. A big ask though… and only time will tell.
7. Your take on Arsenal as a club.
Full of admiration for the way Wenger sets his side out to play. In many ways the tiki-taka style now attributed to Barcelona and co was actually honed and perfected in North London from the day Wenger arrived (17 years ago?). In terms of playing style yours is the most pleasing on the eye (even though the pundits persist with their Swansea love-in) and always makes for an open-attacking game.
8. Do you think the Gunners deserve their top of the table position?
Yep; the Villa game aside, your early season form has been superb and you’re top of the league on merit. Even against West Brom, when you weren’t at your fluent best, you managed to ‘dig in’ and emerge with a point – not always a trait of Arsenal teams of recent years.
9. Does Ozil make Arsenal title contenders this season?
He does indeed. I’ve been a firm admirer of Ozil from the moment he made Gareth Barry look like a leaden footed plodder (which he is) in South Africa 2010. A great signing by Wenger, and one which puts you in with a shout of the title if (and it’s a big if) you get Carzola, Walcott, the Ox and co fit sooner rather than later.
10. One Arsenal player you’d love to see play for Norwich City.
Ozil – Gareth Barry destroyer extraordinaire… say no more.
11. Your general opinion up and down the league. Which players have impressed? Who’s going down? Any team to watch out for?
It has been quite unpredictable so far with all of the big boys losing at least once which – from an overall perspective is a good thing. At the wrong end, life already looks tough for Palace and there’s a big job ahead for Gus Poyet at Sunderland. From our own perspective (and with the benefit of my yellow tinted spectacles) I’m expecting our own stay in the bottom three to be a brief one.
In terms of eye catching players, it’s hard to look past your own Aaron Ramsey who has been on fire in front of goal so far – and has taken on the mantle of ‘goalscoring midfielder’ from Lampard.
And the team to watch out for… pains me to say it, but if Suarez and Sturridge both keep fit, those lovable Scousers are going to be in the mix come next May.
12. Predictions for the game and the season.
For tomorrow… heart says 1-1, head says 2-0 Arsenal
For the season… Arsenal 3rd, City 12th